How to Help a Baby with Constipation

When a baby pouts their bottom lip, our parental instincts tend to kick into high gear. As the mental checklist appears, we begin to go down the list: Are they sleepy or hungry? Maybe a diaper change? But if you’ve noticed they haven’t had a poopy diaper in a while, your baby could be trying to tell you they can’t go.

As you may know, constipation can be uncomfortable, especially on a tiny baby belly. Take a moment to learn what you can do to help a baby with constipation.

What Causes Baby Constipation?

If your baby hasn’t had a bowel movement recently, think back on their diet over the last couple days. Did they try new food? If your constipated baby drinks formula, one of the ingredients might be causing the problem. Try out another kind, such as a diary-free option, to see if it makes a difference. Breastfed-only babies may not have bowel movements every day, but they are not likely to become constipated.

How Can You Tell if a Baby Is Constipated?

Be on the lookout for the following signs so you can help relieve your baby’s pain:
  • Fussiness: Crying more than usual and straining while trying to go to the bathroom
  • Less dirty diapers: The number of bowel movements have unusually declined over the last few days and once they do have one, the stool is hard and tends to include streaks of blood
  • Hard stomach: Your baby’s stomach may feel harder than usual due to the pressure of the constipation
  • Spitting up more and eating less: While feeding your baby, they may spit up more than usual and refuse to eat because of the discomfort of an unemptied stomach

How Long Can a Baby Go Without Pooping?

Formula-fed babies tend to have a bowel movement every day, but they may go one or two days without one. Newborn breastfed babies tend to go every day, but this changes as they get older. As they age, they take in more of the nutrients from the milk so they may go up to one week without a bowel movement.

How Do I Help My Constipated Baby?

If you think your baby is constipated, talk with your pediatrician about options for relief. They may recommend one of the following:
  • Rub their tummy: Massage your baby’s stomach in a gentle, circular motion to help them go to the bathroom.
  • Keep them hydrated: Make sure your baby is getting enough milk or water (if they are old enough). Babies older than six months old may be able to drink juice, such as prune, to stimulate a bowel movement.
  • Monitor the milk: If your breastfed baby is constipated, look at your diet. They could be sensitive to the food you’re eating. Formula-fed babies may not react well to just any formula. Talk with your pediatrician about other kinds that might work better for your baby’s belly.
  • Try fiber: Fiber tends to be an adult’s go-to for regular bowel movements so it makes sense that it can work for babies, too. If your baby is old enough, try adding high-fiber solid or pureed foods to their diet, such as peaches, prunes and broccoli.

Can You Give a Baby Anything for Constipation?

If you’re running out of options to help your constipated baby, your pediatrician may recommend using a laxative or glycerin suppository. To help soften the stool, they may also recommend one or two teaspoons of corn syrup. If you’ve exhausted all available options, check to see if your baby is experiencing any other symptoms that might be linked to other illnesses. Together, with the pediatrician, you’ll get to the bottom of your baby’s problem and help restore the smiles and giggles back to their sweet face.


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